Disappearance of two men still a mystery 30 years after Barking's Valentine's Day killings
PUBLISHED: 12:22 09 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:51 11 July 2014
"People knew not to shout about it. They discussed it behind closed doors, but not down the pub or in a crowd. I'd say they were wary."
Speaking anonymously to the Post, a former resident this week recalled the alleged double killing that shook Barking in 1984 – and the mystery that surrounds it to this day.
Despite an investigation that stretched on for months, no one was ever convicted of killing David Elmore and James Waddington.
In fact, although witnesses seemed sure they were hacked to death with samurai swords in Kaleli – a Greek restaurant in Station Parade – their bodies have never actually been found.
The restaurant where the two men were allegedly killed was stripped, re-carpeted and redecorated in the days following their disappearance.
The nearby River Thames was dredged between Barking Creek and Southend, but no evidence was found.
Initially police believed the pair might still be alive – but as time went on they began to fear the men, who were last seen in Gascoigne Road’s Hope Pub on Valentine’s Day, 1984, had been killed.
Soon after, David Maxwell, 41, and Ronald Reader, 35, then of South End Road, Rainham, were charged with murder.
But both were acquitted and walked free from the Old Bailey in January 1985.
Court reports noted how Mr Maxwell, the steward of Barking’s Scrattons Club, blew kisses at the jury when the group of 12 returned its verdict.
During the trial the court had heard astonishing tales of Kill Bill-style revenge killings, men reciting the Lord’s Prayer at the alleged crime scene and whispers about east London’s murky criminal underworld.
But outside court, Kaleli reopened and life went on.
“I didn’t find it that scary around Barking afterwards,” our source told us. It was spoken about but no one went into too much detail.”
It was alleged the men’s disappearances had stemmed from a long-standing feud between the Maxwell family and Elmore.
Mr Maxwell’s brother Mikki had been the victim of an axe attack by Elmore eight years earlier.
Mr William Denny QC, prosecuting the case, said the men were “victims of vicious and brutal murders” and said it was “clearly untrue” when Maxwell said he hadn’t seen Elmore for years.
But Mr Maxwell, cleared of the charges, said he had been “fitted up”.
A barman at Kaleli and a prominent prosecution witness was Brian Wilson.
During and after the trial he was held in police protection for some time after telling the jury he had helped clean up the aftermath.
Wilson told the court Elmore and Waddington had arrived at the restaurant at 11pm on the night they disappeared.
He said Maxwell and alleged accomplice Reader arrived later and “stormed into the restaurant and hacked at Waddington and Elmore with swords and a knife”.
Brian’s brother Tom, 62, spoke exclusively to the Post this week and said the whole affair was kept “very quiet” at the time.
He added: “The police had it all wrapped up as the scene of the crime but I understand items were removed and the restaurant reopened again afterwards.
“There was plenty of tittle-tattle going on and Brian moved away not long afterwards.”
A file on the men’s deaths is locked away in the Met Police vaults, where it has laid untouched for decades.
When researching this feature, the Post was told it was in a salt mine in the east Midlands and that photographs would be hard to come by.
“No one has been convicted of the murder of James Waddington and David Elmore in February 1984,” said a Met spokesman.
“We would welcome any new information that came to light and it would be assessed accordingly.”